Is the rising popularity of article processing charges putting pressure on more journals to adopt them?
- Article processing charges are popular in the Global North but threaten potentially more sustainable open access models already embraced in Latin America.
- Global support of institutional open access publishing is needed to build an open, non-commercial infrastructure to share research.
Article processing charges (APC) have become increasingly popular across the Global North since the mid-2000s, yet APCs threaten to undermine the open access (OA) ecosystem and only promote published material from well-resourced research fields and communities.
Institutionally funded OA – an alternative ‘diamond’ OA model that excludes fees for readers and authors – is popular in Latin America but is under threat due to the preferences of research evaluation systems and Latin American scholars for international journals (that tend to charge APCs) and their associated prestige. Latin American institutions are resultingly being forced to redirect funds for diamond OA investment towards paying APCs.
Publishers are incentivised to charge APCs due to the proliferation of research funds that are made available to pay them – “APCs beget APCs.”
A recent Nature article highlights this issue, drawing attention to the vicious circle whereby publishers are incentivised to charge APCs due to the proliferation of research funds that are made available to pay them – “APCs beget APCs.” Dr Juan Pablo Alperin, the article’s author, highlights the intrinsic link between APCs and those that can afford to pay them. Dr Alperin, co-scientific director of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, discusses the importance of making research publicly available and lobbies for global OA funding mechanisms that protect publishing diversity, lower the burdens of production, and raise the quality of journals.
To further this cause, PKP has developed free software, Open Journal Systems, to manage, publish and index scholarly works. The software is used by a diverse set of journals and has provided access to many academics as well as non-academics on locally relevant literature.
Global support of institutional OA publishing is growing but more support is needed to build an open, non-commercial infrastructure to share research. Whilst Dr Alperin recognises the model relies on volunteers and institutional staff to provide editorial and technical support, he calls on governments, funders, and academic institutions to embrace diamond OA and stop supporting APCs.
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